Inside Malacanang Presidential Palace


Policymaking in a democracy by definition involves several actors and in presidential systems, the interactions between the president and the legislature play a leading role in the policymaking process. The key question concerns the ability of a sitting president to pass his legislative agenda through Congress.  In the Philippines, the control by a pro-government party or coalition of the legislature is not sufficient to ensure the enactment of the president’s legislative preferences. The weakness of parties and party discipline is behind this political fact.

While the constitution provides for equality between the three branches of government—the executive, legislative and the judiciary—the president actually enjoys first-among-unequals status.  He plays a pre-eminent role in setting the policy agenda and formulating policy proposals.   Since he is elected by the entire nation constituted as an electoral district, theoretically he enjoys greater distance from particularistic interests and will have a more encompassing (e.g., national rather than local) compared to legislators, especially members of the House.

Furthermore, he is usually held by voters and other interlocutors to be primarily responsible for the country’s conditions and therefore faces incentives to push for public-regarding policy as opposed to private-regarding ones.  On the other hand, legislators are more likely to favor private-regarding policy to satisfy specific constituents, political supporters and other narrow interests.

Since the Philippines has a bicameral legislature, will it be correct to say that senators and representatives alike will most likely favor private-regarding policy?

Some observers believe that existing electoral rules tend to make senators more public-regarding compared to

Seal of the Senate of the Philippines

representatives (Eaton 2002).  Senators are similarly elected by the nation at large and are therefore similarly distanced as the President from narrowly-defined sets of constituents and favor-seekers.  Furthermore, senators are a few steps away from the presidency and will therefore have more interest in more encompassing policy than representatives.

However, electoral rules and incentives also lead one to qualify these propositions about senators.  Since senatorial candidates are elected by the entire nation, even those who belong to the same party or coalition slate actually compete with each other since only 12 with the most number of votes will make it.  This increases pressure for incumbent senators and senatorial candidates to establish personal reputations to get elected or re-elected.

In this sense, the pressure may be stronger at the senatorial level than at the level of representatives since it is rare for a party to field more than one candidate in a congressional district.  Since senators compete in a national electoral arena, they need to establish alliances with local politicians to deliver votes in their favor.  For this reason, they similarly try to provide pork barrel and other patronage resources to sub-national politicians.  Thus, senators are not necessarily prone to avoid private-regarding policies.

Senatorial rivalry persists inside the Senate especially among those aspiring for the presidency.  Those eligible for re-election will behave similarly.  For all these reasons, the Senate is bound to be fractionalized and the transactions costs of legislation will increase.  To the extent that a Senate fraction provides the swing vote, it is a veto player that could demand side payments.

The Philippine president enjoys a vast array of powers that enables him to influence the policymaking process.  Even as head of the executive department, the president has law-making powers, both of the pro-active and reactive kind.  Pro-active powers allow the president to establish, or attempt to establish, a new legislative order.

The best example of pro-active power is the power to issue decrees that have the force of law.  Reactive powers allow the president to defend the status quo against legislative attempts to change it.  The most familiar reactive power is the president’s veto power.  The Philippine president’s veto power is enhanced by a relatively strict override proviso—two thirds of all members of each house compared to the US provision of two thirds of a legislative quorum.  To date, no presidential veto had been reversed by congressional action.

Given the President’s control over the executive branch of government and its relatively vast resources, he has agenda setting power with respect to legislation. The executive departments have technical superiority over many policy matters relative to the legislature and are usually tasked to draft proposed legislation, which are then sponsored or introduced in Congress by pro-administration solons.  The president cannot veto a law passed by Congress if it was previously certified as urgent.

House of Representatives in plenary session

In the Philippine context, the more relevant power that the President has that affects lawmaking is his power over the sources of legislators’ patronage, which is especially important given the candidate-centeredness of Philippine electoral politics.  The president controls the release of legislators’ pork barrel funds and can therefore ‘buy’ legislative support for preferred legislation or punish recalcitrant or unsupportive legislators.

In addition to pork barrel funds, other sources of patronage such as the president’s power of appointments and influence over policy implementation and law enforcement can also help influence legislative behavior.  The president’s control over patronage resources is especially important to a legislator seeking re-election.  For this reason, policy deliberations during periods close to elections enhance presidential bargaining power vis-à-vis the legislature.



However, the legislator seeking re-election will also be the target for ‘bribery’ by special interests to shape policy in their favor in exchange for campaign finance and other considerations.


President Fidel Ramos



During the Ramos presidency (1992-1998), the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) was formed by law to facilitate executive-legislative relations and strengthened legislative support for the President’s legislative agenda.  The Council is composed of 20 members (including the Vice President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, seven Cabinet members, three Senators, three Representatives, the president of the League of Provinces, and a representative each of the private business and youth sectors) with the President as chair.

After its initial formation, the Council expanded its membership by inviting all cabinet members and selected legislators from both congressional chambers to attend its weekly meetings.  The frequent LEDAC meeting during the Ramos presidency and the establishment of a coalition between the President’s party and the party which controlled the Senate resulted in the passage of key economic reform measures.

The LEDAC meetings also facilitated the management of crisis situations such as when the Supreme Court declared the first version of the Oil Deregulation Law (Republic Act No. 8180) as unconstitutional.  The Council was immediately convened and the key technical staff of both legislative chambers was able to immediately draft a new version in response to the Court’s observations.  In record time, a new version was approved and passed into law.



President Joseph Estrada



In the subsequent administrations, this formal mechanism was used sparingly.  President Estrada hated chairing meetings and the LEDAC rarely met during his presidency.  President Arroyo preferred the services of House Speaker Jose de Venecia and her political adviser, Gabriel Claudio, whose office supervised the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO), to facilitate her government’s relations with Congress.  Following the political crisis in July 2005 amidst strong allegations of fraud during the 2004 presidential elections, her relations with the Senate soured as key allies such as Senate President Franklin Drilon deserted her camp and called for her immediate resignation.  As a result, the Senate came under the control of opposition senators and had thwarted the passage of budget bills for two years.


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo


From then on, GMA consolidated control of the House after JDV broke ranks with her over the NBN-ZTE broadband scandal and also obtained an ally in  Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who assumed the Senate presidency after a coup unseated Senator Manuel Villar.

  1. […] Mendoza, B. (2010). Executive-Legislative Relations and Policymaking. Retrieved 21                 February 2012, at            legislative-relations-a… […]

  2. Hi, being post-grad student, would like to share some thoughts on public policy for the PHilippine setting.

    Public Policy Models: The best fit for the Philippines

    The public policy, albeit a relatively young concept in public management, enjoys numerous models and approaches in the policy creation. As it finds its way and use in the public policy process, it has developed, borrowed and adapted its approaches from other disciplines like social science, economics, etc. It has also adopted a combination of these models in situations that warrant the use of various models than a sole approach. Flexibility leads to a much tighter public policy as it employs different approaches in consolidating the best response to a social problem. Different strokes for different folks, as they say, and public policy has a great collection of models to choose from to enrich the science of public policy process. These models and approaches to public policy can be either process-oriented or effect-oriented. An approach can be either more attuned to the flow of the process or more focused on the end goal. Both approaches are not better than the other but more appropriately, these approaches guide the policy makers based on which models suit it best for optimum results.

    One way of looking at the models, and how these approaches are best exhibited, can be viewed by looking at where the ‘power’ lies in the concept of the models. Ultimate power seems to be very strongly centered on the institutions in the institutionalist and neo-institutionalist models as these approaches elevate the institution to be the sole governing power in the system. There is power emanating from the few members of the public or the groups in elite, group and system models but the balancing of interest among these competing groups or adding the public’s feedback somehow gives some influencing power from the public. While in streams and windows model, power is given to those who can address the significant events that causes a social problem and is in its nature, reactive. Proactive models such as game theory, incremental model, mixed scanning and even strategic planning models generate much foresight to the solution of a situation or the output of the public policy. Where the power emanates and lies in the course of public policy creation has a huge weight on how the policy will be considered and accepted. Legitimising public policy is giving law teeth to be able to solve a social concern and that in the end, it requires a degree of ‘power’ to be successful.

    In a democratic sense, where there is more participation of the public in the public policy process, the models are quite limited in options. Majority of the models offer limited participation of the majority public to which the policy is supposed to be directed. Models such as elite, institutionalist and new-institutionalist and most of the prescriptive models offer little public voices in the public policy creation. Specific groups or a few have their voices heard in group theory (the group’s point of view) and system model (via feedback) but there is no model available that includes major participation of the public. To a certain degree, public opinion is gauged by the policy makers from their constituents. However, there is no major public voice that is weighed in aside from the voice of the policy makers who are duly elected to represent the people. In the present day, technology and social networks bring enormous capacity for the masses to voice out their opinion on certain social issues. This could be a ripe time to incorporate ‘public voice’ directly in the public policy process and add more venues for the public to govern its nation.

    The Philippines, which started its formal government during the Spanish occupancy of the country, has a very strong root of elite model of public policy, which is very much present in the current system. From the very first president of the Republic of the Philippines, Emilio Aguinaldo to the present day composition of our Senate, it shows how strong the influence of elite theory. Moreover, the presence of more than one family member serving in the Senate and Congress shows how Filipinos are still attached to nepotism or dynasty, in which the elite or ‘few’ maintain a long line of service in the government and propagating the elite model. Jose Rizal, a well-known elite, is our country’s foremost hero also shows how strong elite model runs in our country. In the last decade, Filipinos have seen the rising of the group representation known as ‘party-list’ have been allowed to represent certain groups in the lower house of Congress such as Akbayan, Ako Bikol and Gabriela to name a few. Currently, the party-list groups occupy at least 41 seats in the Lower House. This shows that the Philippine public governance is evolving into a more participatory system and it is plausible in the near future to legitimise the voice of the public, not only in choosing their representations, but even in the creation of public policy.

    Even if the Philippines cannot drastically change to a more rigorous model of conceiving public policy, there are cases that it can optimise the models that are available. It benefits not by using the best there is but by using the right and best model in the situation it tries to resolve. As social events occur and warrant changes in the existing policies, the country can best use incremental model. Growing intensity and frequency of storms and other disasters every year can best use incremental model to strengthen the existing policies in environmental sanitation and sustainable developments. However, a strategic planning model can be best adapted in cases relating to boosting the Philippine economy as it will include rational course of actions and incremental actions to existing laws. It is right time for the country as well to veer away from so much institutionalism and bank more of the science that the prescriptive output models employ. More importantly, it is not so much for the Philippines to adhere to these models to produce the best public policies. I truly believe that the addition of a stronger ‘public voice’ is what’s lacking all these models and one that my country may be the first to adapt. After all, it boasts internationally to breathe a democratic form of government of the people, by the people, for the people and public should have a core participation in its policy creation.

  3. […] Executive-legislative relations and policy making April 2010 2 comments […]

  4. Jolay says:

    I think the book that will come out of this project will be a very interesting read sir. Can’t wait for it to come out of the presses!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s